Surrender by operation of law: conduct of parties inconsistent with the continuance of the tenancy

In Brent LBC v Sharma ([1992] WL 893783, CA (Eng)) a tenant served notice on her landlord to say that she had moved out and that she would not object if her co-habitee were granted a lease of the property. The landlord stopped charging rent and internal documents showed that it regarded the lease as having come to an end. Subsequently, it served a notice to quit on her at the property. The question was whether there had been surrender by operation of law and the English Court of Appeal found that there had been.

‘In my judgment, the court is entitled to look at the whole of the conduct of the landlord prior to the issue of proceedings. If, by the time of the issue of the proceedings, it is quite plain that the landlord has accepted by his conduct, or shown by his conduct, that the tenancy no longer existed, then the conditions giving rise to a surrender by operation of law are established.’    (Stuart-Smith L.J)

The tenant regarded the tenancy as being at an end from the date of her notice to the landlord. The landlord’s subsequent conduct showed that it too regarded the tenancy as being at an end. Its later notice to quit did not prejudice this conclusion; it was just a belt and braces effort by the Council.

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